All About Baby

Your little one will begin to fill out over the next few weeks. Fat layers form throughout your unborn baby’s body. These layers will eventually keep him warm and insulated once outside the womb. Soft hair, called lanugo, covers his body, too. His eyelids are still closed, making him appear like he’s sleeping, but frequent wiggles will let you know he’s awake. You may also feel Baby hiccupping.Those jerky motions you feel in your belly are a result of little lungs practicing the important task of breathing.

All About You

Now that your body is accustomed to your new addition, you’ll notice several pregnancy symptoms disappear: Nausea becomes a distant memory and fatigue more manageable. Your breasts and abdomen are less tender, but you may experience itchiness and see stretch marks as your body continues to expand. As your internal organs are pushed aside to make room for the growing fetus, you may have heartburn, indigestion, and bloating. Your mood swings lessen, but you may have more anxiety about labor and motherhood as the reality of your baby’s birth draws closer.

Bonding with Your Baby-to-Be

You don’t have to wait until your baby arrives to begin bonding. Throughout your pregnancy you may have thoughts and impressions about your baby-to-be’s personality. Maybe she constantly wiggles at a certain time of day, or her movements become less frequent when you’re listening to particular kinds of music. Try these simple ideas to feel closer your little one.

Talk to your baby-to-be: According to a 2005 study by Barbara Kisilevsky, a nursing professor at Queens University in Ontario, Canada, babies prefer their mothers’ voices even before they’re born. Kisilevsky, who conducted the research with a team of psychologists from Queens and obstetricians in Hangzhou, China, found that babies’ heart rates in utero accelerated at the sound of their mothers’ voices. You can help your baby get to know your voice by talking to him. Sing to him in the car, rattle off the ingredients as you cook dinner, or read to him. Let other family members in on the fun; your partner or other children can talk to your tummy, too!

Start a library for your little one: If this is your first child, you may not have any baby books in your home. Before your baby arrives, pick out stories you can share with her. You’ll be reading these stories over and over again, so choose carefully. (And remember, you don’t have to wait she’s born to start reading to her.)

Listen to music together: Your baby can hear sounds, including music, in utero (how well she hears it is still a matter of scientific study). While you may not convert your baby-to-be to your preferred bands, you’ll feel a connection to her as she kicks during your favorite tunes. Try picking an anthem for your baby — maybe a Beatles classic, a country ballad, or a calming lullaby.

Ready the nursery: Preparing your child’s room can help you envision what life will be like once he arrives. Choosing colors, picking out crib sheets, and adding decorations to plain walls may make your impending motherhood feel all the more real.

Buy baby clothes: Shopping for a little one can be fun. Just look at how small those newborn socks are! Display your finds on hangers in the nursery.

Blog your pregnancy: Help your family and friends know more about how you’re feeling through a website designed around your pregnancy. Post ultrasound pictures or — if you’re brave enough — pictures of your growing baby bump. Friends and family can offer support and share in your excitement.

Keep a journal of your thoughts: Take time to reflect on what it means to be carrying your child. Record these thoughts in a diary so that you’ll never forget how you felt during your pregnancy. You may even share this journal with your child once he gets older.

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Q & A

Got questions about Week 21? Other women have asked…

Q: My back really hurts! What can I safely do to help alleviate this pain?

Lower back pain or discomfort is a common pregnancy symptom for many women. As you gain weight and hormones loosen joints to accommodate the size of your baby, many women will complain of aches, fatigue, or even moderate to severe pain in the lower back. There are some things you can do to lessen the severity and improve the symptoms. Read more about back pain during pregnancy.

Q: Is it normal to have contractions at 21 weeks?

Contractions usually feel like a balling up or tightening sensation over your lower abdomen, or sometimes in your back. They might feel a little like menstrual cramps. Up to a few contractions an hour can be normal. Read more about Braxton Hicks contractions at 21 weeks.

Q: Will having sex during pregnancy hurt our baby?

This is a fairly universal concern that most fathers-to-be have on their minds. As far as hurting the baby, worry not: The baby is well protected by the uterine wall, the amniotic fluid, and the amniotic sac. The opening to the uterus, the cervix, is also closed and has a mucus plug to protect the uterus and your baby. Read more about sex during pregnancy.

Q: Is it safe for pregnant women to pass through airport screening machines?

Don’t worry! According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), passing through an airport screening machine poses no threat to you or your baby. Read more about travelling while pregnant.

Your Partner

When Something Goes Wrong

Lugging an extra 10 to 20 pounds or more can be terribly exhausting for some pregnant women. Combine that weight with the rigors of day-to-day life, and your spouse’s body is now working harder than it ever has before to simply walk from the car to the front door, up and down stairs at the office, or around the grocery aisles. The truth is, pregnancy affects every woman differently, and it is hard — if not impossible — to determine how it is going to affect your partner. If your spouse begins to feel ill at this point in her pregnancy, experiences complications, or is ordered onto partial or complete bed rest, it becomes your job to do everything in your power to help her.

When the unplanned occurs during pregnancy, it is stressful for both you and your spouse. In order to help her, you’ll need to be as flexible and creative as possible. She may need to have more food or water with her wherever she goes (equipping her with a Camelbak or other low-weight, ergonomic water carrier can be key). She may need to remain lying down as much as possible (try rearranging areas in your home so she is never far from anything she needs). You can help by setting up a little snack and water tray by the bed or couch. Get her good books to read, videos to watch, or music to listen to.

Remember, taking care of your partner gives her a better chance of carrying to full-term and delivering a healthy baby for you both.

But to take care of yourself, you’ll also need to think creatively. You can’t afford to be overwhelmed by stress but like many expecting dads, the added stress and worry affects you, too, and you don’t want to burden your partner more than she already is. Yet it is extremely important that you find some way to manage your increased stress. Try talking to friends and family, seek out the advice of fathers who have already been through this.

When things get tough, it is even more important that you two find special time together, time where you can push aside the stress and anxiety and remember that it was the love you two have for each other that brought you here today, that your love for each other, your ability to communicate, to share, to love will be what helps you both get through all of this together.